Trendspotting at DMAI’s 2016 Annual Conference

By Kelsey Ogletree, August 6, 2016

Earlier this week I headed to Minneapolis to join about 1,500 DMO professionals at Destination Marketing Association International’s annual conference. Led by new president and CEO Don Welsh, DMAI sought to make this year’s event bigger and better with the theme “It’s a Brand New Day.” This being my first time attending the show, I have no point of reference with which to compare—though the highly energetic opening session that saw Welsh shaking his groove thang to KC and The Sunshine Band’s “Boogie Shoes” certainly kicked off the conference on a high note. (That evening’s reception at the brand-new U.S. Bank Stadium didn’t hurt, either.) If you didn’t make it to the show, here are a few trends I picked up on that are worthy of note.

Medical association planners are the new popular kids. Nearly every DMO prof I spoke with said growing their city’s focus on this segment was high priority, so the battle to win medical meetings business is getting tougher by the day. As more cities up their game by adding world-class medical facilities (Austin, Texas, even has a new medical school—showoffs!), upgrading convention centers and bulking up guest room counts, second- and even third-tier cities are getting a chance at scoring major medical association business.

Airlift has been, is and always will be a major make (or break) for DMOs. When asked about what’s new in their cities, many CVB executives I spoke with talked about new flights the way a kid might share about his puppy. While it sounds funny to get excited about air travel these days, direct routes can be game changers for a destination—take a new direct from New York City to Sydney (coming soon, promises Paul M. Griffin, business events manager of Americas for Tourism Australia), for example. After all, even the most beautiful hotel at the most affordable price isn’t going to work if you can’t get attendees there.

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